China Fuels October Pork Exports;

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Strong demand from China bolstered U.S. pork exports in October, according to data released by USDA and compiled by the U.S. Export Federation (USMEF), while October beef exports were below the very high totals posted a year ago.

October pork exports increased 8.5% year-over-year to 225,376 metric tons (mt), while export value climbed 10% to $592 million. January-October export volume was 5% ahead of last year’s pace at 2.13 million mt, while value increased 3% to $5.48 billion.

Pork export value averaged $48.13 per head slaughtered in October, up 4% from a year ago. For January through October, the per-head average was down 1% to $51.12. October exports accounted for 24% of total U.S. pork production and 20.9% for muscle cuts only, up from 23.6% and 20.7%, respectively, a year ago. January-October exports accounted for 26% of total pork production and 22.6% for muscle cuts, both up slightly year-over-year.

October beef exports totaled 108,017 mt, an 8% decline from last year’s large volume, while export value ($649.1 million) was down 11%. Through the first 10 months of 2019, beef exports were down 2.5% in volume (1.1 million mt) and value ($6.75 billion) from last year’s record pace.

Beef export value per head of fed slaughter averaged $284.56 in October, down 10% from a year ago, while the January-October average was down 4% to $308.04. October exports accounted for 12.9% of total U.S. beef production and 10.5% for muscle cuts only, down from 14.1% and 11.6%, respectively, last year. For January through October, exports accounted for 14.1% of total beef production and 11.5% for muscle cuts, each down about one-half of a percentage point from 2018, when a record percentage of production was exported.

October pork standouts: China, Oceania, Central America

Although still saddled by China’s retaliatory duties, October pork exports to the China/Hong region reached 61,062 mt, up 150% year-over-year, while export value climbed 127% to $141.3 million. For January through October, exports to China/Hong Kong were up 55% in volume (468,576 mt) and 34% in value ($974.8 million). Exports to the region already exceed the full-year totals of 2018.

“China’s efforts to rebuild its domestic swine inventory, which has been hit hard by African swine fever, are gaining traction, but there are still excellent opportunities for pork-supplying countries,” said USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom. “As U.S.-China trade talks continue, we remain hopeful that access for U.S. red meat in China will return to a level playing field with our competitors.”

Pork exports to Mexico fell below year-ago levels in October, with volume down 18.5% to 54,639 mt and value declining 9% to $97.3 million — the lowest since April. January-October exports to Mexico were down 11% from a year ago in volume (584,415 mt) and declined 9% in value ($1.02 billion).

“Increased demand in China is pulling some pork cuts and offal away from Mexico as well as other markets, but October shipments to Mexico were nevertheless disappointing,” Halstrom said. “The U.S. industry is still feeling the effect of Mexico’s retaliatory duties on pork, which were in place for about one year, and rebuilding pork demand in Mexico remains a top priority.”

The outlook for pork exports to Japan in 2020 and beyond brightened significantly this week as the Japanese Parliament ratified an agreement that will bring tariffs on U.S. pork in line with those imposed on major competitors. The tariff disadvantage was evident in October, as pork export volume to Japan was down 16% from a year ago to 29,622 mt and value fell 17% to $122.3 million. Through October, exports to Japan trailed last year’s pace by 7% in both volume (307,974 mt) and value ($1.27 billion).

January-October highlights for U.S. pork include:

  • Fueled by strong growth in both Australia and New Zealand, pork exports to Oceania are on a record pace in both volume (95,218 mt, up 39%) and value ($272.9 million, up 37%). The region is an outstanding destination for U.S. hams and other muscle cuts used in further processing.
  • Exports to Central America were 16% above last year’s record pace in volume (76,861 mt) and 19% higher in value ($187 million). Exports to Panama were one-third higher year-over-year and mainstay markets Honduras and Guatemala have both achieved double-digit value growth.
  • While October export volume to South America slowed slightly from a year ago (13,934 mt, down 2%), value still increased 12% to $35.9 million. Led by steady growth in Colombia and a strong uptick in demand from Chile and Peru, January-October exports to South America remained on a record-shattering pace at 128,469 mt (up 21% year-over-year), valued at $323.8 million (up 25%).

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